About one year ago, I stopped going to church.

There’s a million reasons why, and if I were to give you the reasons you would either nod your head in agreement or you would give me the standard church answers every Mormon learns within the first year or two of membership.

That is perhaps my greatest issue with the LDS church, it has become more about the culture and stereotypes rather than the doctrine.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

I do not have any real problem with the LDS church, in fact I have the utmost respect and gratitude for it coming into my life when it did. I needed a strict set of rules and guidelines to live my life by when Cody came into my life over 14 years ago and being a Mormon made me who I am today. I learned more about people, acceptance, open-mindedness, Christianity, guilt, revenge, kindness, and empathy from being involved in church and the LDS community than I would have learned anywhere else — however it was never easy for me. I very much played a part, the part I figured I was supposed to play, and I played it well.

I never felt like I fit in at church or within any church groups. I went because I was supposed to, rarely because I wanted to. While I loved learning and the comfort that came from church meetings, I always felt out of place. I much preferred going to the temple, it was far more personal — rather than a giant judgement show of who was the most holy. Never feeling as though I belonged for over a decade was incredibly difficult. While the teachings of the LDS church have always been fairly easy for me to understand, the culture is one I may never fully comprehend.

I’m not saying I’ll never go back or that I don’t believe in anything anymore.

One of the greatest testimonies I gained for myself was the knowledge that God knows me. Individually. And He likes me. He likes me just as much as He likes anyone else and even if I’m not “all in” at the moment He still loves me. That’s the thing about the LDS religion, you cannot be a passive Mormon. You’re either all in or you’re out. There is no ‘Mormon Light’ nor is there such a thing as a part-time Mormon which makes things incredibly difficult for outliers like myself. I have known there is a God from the moment I first hit my knees to pray at 18 years old, the rest of the details are just a little fuzzy right now.

What I’ve come to realize is I’m not alone in stepping away from church, there seems to be a mass-exodus of people my age leaving the LDS faith and it all seems to be for different reasons. Almost anyone within church will say it is a sign of the sinful times ahead and I’m sure someone will bring it up the eternal consequences of my current choices with me soon enough. My reasoning in “coming out” is to say to the others who are struggling with this same issue that you are not alone, and this is really hard.

Many of the people who have taken a step back were raised in the LDS faith and it is all they have ever really known.

From the outside nothing has really changed aside from a few more free hours on Sundays each week. I’m still me. I’m happy (I daresay I’m even happier), I’m healthy, I’m doing really well. I’m still a nice person and I still pray. I keep waiting for something terrible to happen as retribution, and maybe it will someday, but terrible things happened when I went to church, surely terrible things will happen when I don’t go to church.

The guilt is the hardest part. Being able to automatically guilt myself with a response to every justification I make in regards to my decision to stop attending. I would hope it’s a universal religion thing, not just a Mormon church thing, and I’ll never know because I’ve never left a church before. This article has been one of the most interesting I’ve read in regards to the health effects of being involved (and leaving) organized religion.

I don’t know what’s next, I don’t know what will happen, but I know I’m not alone and know I feel better getting this out there.

Comments

  1. Ah Casey, I hope you know that “church” is not the thing that saves you at all. I’m sure you do, but coming from a non-Mormon, this is one of those things we have in common. It’s not the church you attend, but the personal relationship you have, and no “church” can ever change your heart or what’s in your heart. I’m glad you’re happy. :)

    Nellie Reply:

    I wanted to say something similar but this response is absolute perfection!!! Casey, you are a gift from God and a light to the world!!!

  2. Kade Grantham says:

    As always, I love every single bit of you, Casey! The LDS Church was a vital part of my life at one point and one which I will always appreciate. But, like you, we seem to have grown apart over the years. I am happier now as I’m no longer trying to be the person that everyone thinks I should be and just being myself. Thanks you, Casey, for being you!

  3. I really love this post. I am a life-long Catholic, although I stepped away as a young adult ( in my early 20s). I love the part where you say that you realize “God knows me”. That lifted me. To paraphrase from my Bible: ” I knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb.”

    Of course you are still a good person, and of course you still pray. We don’t need religion to do these things or be these things. It helps some of us more than others. I hope you continue to search for what you need, whether in the LDS faith or another faith. Continue to be open. listen for the small, still voice of God. Bless you.

  4. Krista said it first. But yes. Church isn’t what saves us.

    I’ve not attended a church consistently in about 15-18 months. And I definitely know that I am happier not having to listen to viewpoints that were belittling or so far from where I stood that I was afraid of speaking up because the way things outside the very narrow mindset were talked about.

    On the rare Sundays I’ve gone to church, the ‘replacement’ church I would love to love is so exclusionary that I wonder WHY I’m doing that to myself. Is it really THAT HARD to say hi to the single girl sitting by herself?

  5. i love you. I am proud of you

  6. Ha! The same year I’m doing the opposite. In the meantime, I’m coming to the same conclusions you are, but man, I’m going to miss the idea of community.

  7. Loud and clear mama…you’re not alone ??

  8. Loud and clear mama…you’re not alone ??

  9. If you don’t fit in, that’s enough reason to stop going.

    I have always said that the LDS culture is SUCH a good deal – you get instant community, which is something most of us crave – if you can just go along with the beliefs. I can see why so many people do it. But if you can’t, you can’t.

    I’m going to a church where the questions are more important than the answers. It’s not for everyone, because there’s a lot of talk about mystery and paradox. I’m glad I found it, though.

    I believe you are a beloved child of God, beautiful and perfect just the way you are.

  10. Rusty Carroll says:

    Very well said!

  11. Man, this is such a sensitive topic for a lot of people. Being someone that was raised in the church, then my parents fell away from the church when I was 11 years old, I feel like I know a little bit of both worlds. I know that growing up my parents still kept the morals the church teaches, but there was just something missing. There was always contention and lots of fighting. I knew that when I grew up I wanted my family to be active in the church. My parents still do not attend church (20+ years later), their morals have slipped considerably. My brother and sister do not attend church either, and neither of them hold the same morals or standards. This being said, I still love them deeply, and that will never change. I did marry a returned missionary, and we are raising our family in the church, but things aren’t perfect. Far from it, in fact. But what I can say is that there is an overwhelming difference in the way I grew up and how my children are growing up. There is more love and there is more peace. Everyone goes through trials, but just like you said, Heavenly Father loves us, each one of us! Even if we are on different paths. Oh and I totally understand the “guilt” that you feel when you don’t go to church. But rather than labeling it as guilt, I think of it as the Holy Ghost, giving me a gentle nudge. :)

  12. I’m in (and out, and in again) this boat as well, and I just…man, so many things.

    Hugs to you for being brave and sharing this.

    xox

  13. I was raised in the Catholic church. Kind of. I went most Sundays to mass but I never received the sacraments. No first communion. No going to confession. No confirmation. And honestly, I think I got the best of both worlds. I have a faith that doesn’t revolve around the specifics of a particular religion. I’m comfortable in a catholic church but I’m just as much at home speaking to God in my bath tub. He loves me and that’s really all that matters!

    P.S. I’m thrilled that you are happy and healthy and I look forward to every new post :)

  14. Brandi Melton says:

    My family and I left the church about 13 years ago and returned almost 8 years ago. It was the best decision we as a family have ever made (return, I mean). We had a lot of bad things that happened when we were not going to church and missed going. The one thing I regret not doing was letting my kids go,( they were to young to go by themselves), they suffered spiritually because of it. So if you don’t want to go then don’t but if your children want to go, please let them, from one mom to another. One thing I learned leaving and coming back is it’s NOT WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF YOU IT’S WHAT YOU THINK OF YOURSELF, church is about GOD not the people in it, not what they think of you, not what you think of them. You just learn to not care what people think of you. Remember you have agency just like they do. Let them think negative of you or of your choices ( gay rights, abortion, etc..) they are juggling you which is not good and Heavenly Father knows. Our family sure misses you in our ward so so long ago. I pray you find the answers you seek.

  15. I get it. Two years ago was a make-or-break time for me with the church, and at just the right moment I heard just the right words from one of the leaders, and it made all the difference to me. It’s not everything, but it’s enough, and until they insist I vote my covenants instead of my conscience (because those are very different to me – one personal, the other not), and make it doctrine that I really do actually *have* to think, act, feel, behave the same as everyone else, the church is just going to have to deal with me, and the rabble rousers I’m raising in it. Apparently I held in there just long enough for them to make me Relief Society President (ha!), and honestly, I feel *immensely* grateful to be in a position to make other women who struggle like I do feel safe and welcome.

  16. Casey my darling, the church, it is a-changin’. Slowly. And imperceptibly to many. As a life long member and one who definitely has issues and unanswered questions let me give you permission to doubt and question to your hearts delight. The very idea that one must be all-in or all-out is as you say what drives many away. What you don’t realize is that many many active members do indeed question and flat out disagree with aspects of the doctrine. But they still go. Because there is more that they identify with than not. The problem is they struggle silently for fear of retribution. And that is what is finally starting to change. The idea that you have to believe it all hook line and sinker. The church is addressing this. Read uchtdorfs talk from 10/14 for just one example. I just attended a symposium on this very topic. Notables like o c tanner, sterling mcmurrin, Lowell Bennion were studied as well as church authorities who doubted fairly crucial points of doctrine, yet remained active. Ever wonder why there are so many who never stand on fast mtgs? And then there are the die hards that we hear from without fail month after month. As for the culture? Well. It stinks. In Utah anyway. Not everywhere. And not all the time. But it’s a problem for sure. We’d all be inactive at one point or another. Because people are stupid. And biased and threatened and exclusive and insecure. You just cannot be reduced by someone’s inability to see your worth. Because as say… God knows and likes you. I’ll switch like out for love. And that’s what matters. And I love you. And Cody. And Addie and Vivi. And Emily and countless others. Vivi didn’t know how to say her prayers. Got a little weirded out. That scared me. I said them for her and she looked at me funny. Same at the dinner table. Kind of s no-go. Hey that’s cool. But just know your choices affect others. My great great grandmother almost left the church. Got so ticked off. I come from a long line of proud feisty women. Of whom I am honored to counted among. She stayed. I’m glad. Take what you want. Take what you need. Forget the rest. Maybe it’ll come. Maybe it won’t. But this idea of all in or all out? Forget that too. It’s bull$hit. Love you my dearest.

    Stacey @ The Scenic Life Reply:

    @Charis, I just want to say that I appreciate your comment, and it touches on something I was thinking while reading this, too. My faith is messy, and is certainly not all in or all out. I know many other members who feel the same. I’m getting more vocal about my questions and my concerns and where I fall outside of prescribed church culture, and while it’s certainly not easy, I believe it’s preparing a safe place for others to do the same (especially my children, who have questions of their own). I’m not saying we should all feel charged with being “the change” we want to see happen in the church, but if I feel like if not me, then who? So much to consider. Most days I feel we’re all just slouching towards Bethlehem.

  17. Nothing but love for you, my friend. I applaud you for speaking your truth.

  18. You are a brave, strong, smart, and wonderful human being. Thank you for saying these things out loud. So much love.

  19. Long time reader and fellow recent LDS church leaver here. Sending you love and commiserations.

  20. For what it’s worth, I’m glad you posted this. I joined the church at 19, and left 3 months later. When I met my now ex husband I thrust myself back in, way before I was ready to. I don’t feel comfortable sharing my whole story in your comments, but if you ever want to talk, my email is attached. *hugs*

  21. Mr Lady says:

    This is good. Faith should be personal.

    I left what I would argue is THE organized religion and I will never be gone from it fully. I think, 20 years later, I’m left with mostly the good parts. And lazy Sunday mornings will always be super sweet.

  22. I was raised Pentecostal. If you wanted to really dive deep into my religious background, my Dad’s side is a long line of Mennonite missionaries-and when I met and then married my quietly not-so-religious husband, all hell broke loose.

    They disowned me. I was “walking away from God”. Bad things would happen. In the end they realized I was marrying him anyway and we tried to mend things, but it was too late-the damage was far too severe.

    The article that you linked to was fascinating. I grew up with the concept of Hell being held over me all the time, and it took me YEARS to get past it. I even used to watch The X Files to desensitize myself to a few things. (funny thing is now a good friend of mine actually WORKED ON the set of the X Files). The guilt was huge. But eventually I found my own way and beliefs for myself. I’m comfortable enough now to say that I’m not a Christian, and that for some things, I just don’t know. And that’s okay.

    I think finding what’s comfortable for you is important. Good luck! xo

  23. Elizabeth says:

    You may not remember me, but we went to high school together. I read this post last night and it broke my heart, mainly because both my husband and I grew up in the church and we’ve both said how much we hate the culture. We’ve been in good wards and bad, but there is so much about any organized faith that can go wrong.

    Why do we stay? Because the faith isn’t about the culture for us. We stay in spite of it. And with the hope that in our own silly way, we can carve a niche. Sometimes the ward allows it, sometimes, we seek friendships outside the church.

    I don’t know why that’s been eating me, but I’m so sorry you’ve felt that you need to leave. Church going certainly can be messy, but church isn’t for the perfect.

  24. Proud of you. And I love you and Cody and those girls with my whole heart whether you spend your Sundays in a church or on a couch. (Real talk: I might love you slightly more if I’m on those couches too…)

    Cordoza, lady.

  25. Ah, can I ever relate. I’m usually not one to find comfort that someone else is going through the “same thing” I am. But in this case, leaving the church, it really is comforting to know I’m not the only one. Despite the differences in our reasons and backgrounds.

    And aside from marrying my husband, it was the best decision I ever made. People currently IN the church will never understand. Never.

  26. Oh, Casey. I love this post. I was baptized into the LDS church when I was 18. I resigned from the church when I was 23. There were just a lot of things that I disagreed with, and as I got older was bothered by them more and more. I’m 27 now and still struggle with not having a community like the Church gives you, but I’m doing much better emotionally than I was in the Church. I’ve gone back and forth, believing I might have made a mistake and so I started going to church again a couple of times. But, in the end, I always end up coming to the same conclusion. That the Church is not for me. That my time spent in it was good, but that I no longer wish to be a part of it. I’m sending you love.

  27. Erica Mueller says:

    Oh, Casey. I’ve been there. I haven’t been to church regularly in almost ten years and can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve stepped inside one since. I’m tired of religion as it is, with all its traditions and dressing up and spending money on building and such. I’m a Christian. Probably more devout now than the past few years. But I don’t go to church. I read my bible daily, I pray and sing songs of worship. I give to and help people. But I don’t go to church. And I’m judged for that. Why?
    There’s a verse in the bible about not forsaking the assembly of believers. But you know what? Every single time we have good friends over, or we go have a bible study at someone’s house, we’re assembling with people like us. People who believe in Jesus. And to me, that is church.
    Do I miss certain things about traditional church? Sure. I miss choir an awful lot. But I can’t sit through the hypocrisy and tradition for that.

    Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. It’s not just an LDS thing. You’re not a horrible person. :-)

  28. Michelle says:

    So good to read such honesty, both from you, Casey, and your other readers.

    I don’t know much about LDS, apart from what you have written (I live in Australia and attend a Baptist fellowship), but I know that there are people in all religions who have the same feelings. BUT unless people do speak up and question the way things are done, they will never change. It doesn’t mean you or I have to be the ones to do it, but there needs to be a safe place for this to happen, and sometimes leadership feels threatened if the status quo is questioned. So I pray that you will continue to remain close to God and listen to His voice, and walk in His ways.

    The Bible teaches Relationship with Jesus/God, not religion. So, keep the relationship happening, and give your children the opportunity to get to know this great friend, Jesus.

  29. Candace says:

    We are all on our own personal journey with God, aren’t we? I honor and respect your journey. <3

  30. Casey, thank you for speaking your mind and your heart. I am a firm believer that you have to do what is right for you and your family no matter what others think or say.

    Sarah Reply:

    @Kait, this reply is so spot on for exactly what I wanted to express. I said something on Twitter, Casey, but it feels like it’s worth repeating. “Your hilarious, tactful honesty is SO refreshing.” Keep it up, lady; you’ve got a friend in me!

  31. I’ve been a member of the LDS church for almost 23 years now, and definitely have had my ups and downs when I first joined. It was a culture shock when i first moved to Utah, but luckily I have always learned to focus on the ups! We all join for different reasons, and I agree with you when you mentioned that more and more people around your generation are leaving the church, and I personally don’t judge. God is the only judge, and only he knows the reasons why one joins the church, and why one goes astray. Regardless if we were raised or born with it. You are a beautiful person Casey. I knew you before you had your cute kids, and only want you to be happy with your family. Life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies with the church, or any religion, or life period…it’s what we make of it that keeps us happy, and living!

    XOXO

  32. Not sure if you can stream this in the US, but it’s an amazing tale of bravery and the LDS church and one woman’s experience.

    http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Tapestry/ID/2569467188/

  33. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1
    No condemnation! The Spirit of LIFE has set you FREE! Guilt and condemnation are not of the Holy Spirit. Peace, joy, and freedom in knowing that God sees you as wholly righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice are of the Holy Spirit. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 You’re absolutely right, he knows you and loves you. Nothing can change that. Not even religious guilt ;)

  34. Organized religion is always well-intentioned but rarely effective at doing what it is supposed to do; giving people peace and hope in a scary world. Good for you for stepping out of something that didn’t make you happy and didn’t fulfill you. God either loves us all or doesn’t, I do not believe God is petty and judgmental and has rankings and favorites and what-not. That doesn’t add up to me. Wishing you the best!

  35. Do you know James Mulholland? He’s in Indy. Former Quaker minister. One of the most loving, kind and thoughtful people I know.

    http://leavingyourreligion.com/author/jim/

    You know I’m always rooting for you, no matter your course.

    Cheers!

  36. I am LDS and love the Mormon church…however, all of us struggle in our lives and beliefs. I think there is a lot of pressure to “fit the mold”, so to speak. I just wish that more members of the church could be more real and open about what their lives are really like instead of putting on airs. We have an ideal image in our heads of what “Molly Mormon” should look like, but 0% of people in the church actually fit that profile…they just put on a good show. I also think that many people in the church get hung up on the culture (my sister has had people make rude comments to her because she had the gall to wear slacks *gasp* to church instead of a dress. Seriously, who cares? That has nothing to do with church doctrine. It isn’t what our religion is about and it has absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s teachings. I do get sad to hear that so many people are choosing to leave the church…because I absolutely believe in the doctrine. You are amazing, Casey, and I wish you and your family the best, whether or not you return to church…but I am secretly (or not so secretly) hoping that you do :)

  37. Maybe try a church vacation, or church dating. Visit somewhere new and see what God has in store for you. He might just meet you there and knock your socks off. (Brandywine is amazing. So is BRCC- both close to you :0)